Errington “Bumpy” Watkins, a former police officer who was elected to the House of Assembly and led early, unsuccessful efforts by Abaconians to secede from The Bahamas ahead of Independence, passed away on December 26 at age 90.
Mr. Watkins is most well-known to Abaconians for the part he played in opposing Independence in Abaco while serving as the representative for the FNM in South Abaco.
In December of 1971 the Greater Abaco Council (a group of Abaconians against Independence) flew to London on a last effort to petition for Abaco remaining a colony. Mr. Watkins accompanied Leonard Thompson and Sherwin Archer on that trip.
After the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) election win, The Greater Abaco Council disbanded at the end of 1972, but Mr. Watkins carried on with other ardent loyalists like Chuck Hall and Albert Albury, who organized a successor group called the Council for a Free Abaco. This new group produced a 10-page manifesto on Independence and Freedom, criticizing Nassau’s exploitation of Abaco.
The CFA believed that Abaco had a legal right to self-determination, and circulated another petition that was signed by half the registered voters on the island. In May 1973 Watkins carried this petition to London, hoping to influence the debate on the Bahamas Independence Order in the British Parliament.
After having two amendments quashed in London in May and June before the enactment of The Bahamas’ Independence Mr. Watkins returned to Nassau, and introduced a last-ditch resolution in the House of Assembly calling for a United Nations-supervised referendum on Abaco.
This gained support from a few FNM MPs (Mike Lightbourn, Cleophas Adderley and former Premier Sir Roland Symonette), but the measure was easily defeated and Watkins then dropped out of the fight.
In his later years Mr. Watkins made frequent appearances on local talk shows to discuss political and other national issues, and was also a social commentator through his writings. He used his Facebook page to promote his views and also his love for farming.
Leader of the Official Opposition Loretta Butler-Turner and the Democratic National Alliance remembered Watkins in tributes.
“Errington “Bumpy” Watkins was a colourful and larger than life figure who contributed to our national life over the course of many decades,” said Butler-Turner in a press release.
“…He often boasted of his Long Island heritage and enjoyed deep ties to the people of Long Island.
“He also had an activist spirit, advocating for the causes he believed in, including just recently at a demonstration in Rawson Square. Mr. Watkins wrote many letters to the newspapers on the views and causes he espoused with passion.
In a post on its Facebook page on Monday, the Democratic National Alliance said the party also mourns the loss of the beloved “Bumpy”.
“His life was a testament to what being a true patriot was all about,” the DNA said.
“He was as kind and loving as he was formidable, a friend, a family man and a mentor.”